The Austin Chronicle

ACL Fest Interview: Japanese Breakfast

Shoegaze-infused indie rockers find inspiration in food and memory

By Rachel Rascoe, October 5, 2018, Music

Japanese Breakfast

3:30pm, Barton Springs stage

In August, Michelle Zauner penned a full-hearted essay on grief and cultural heritage for The New Yorker. The songwriter, head of Philly-based rock project Japanese Breakfast, detailed breaking down in the aisles of Asian megagrocery H Mart – one of which opened this year in Cedar Park – over her Korean mother's passing.

"Growing up biracial, food was the most immediate access point to embrace my heritage," shares the Oregon-raised musician. "My most recent, concentrated memories of my mother were from when she was sick. Learning to cook Korean food was a way to find sweet memories instead."

The singer spoke from a "weird limbo place" near Cleveland, Ohio, between concert dates, leaving her band time to enjoy Dave & Buster's, as well as the local museum's Yayoi Kusama exhibit. Zauner and company, including her husband Peter Bradley on guitar, shouldered her metallic, shoegaze-infused alloy of Pacific Northwest indie rock nearly nonstop throughout 2018.

On the road internationally, the songwriter often tweeted her cravings for the comforts of Korean cuisine.

"Have you seen the movie Spirited Away?" she asks. "[The main character] has to eat something from the world in order to not disappear. That's how I feel when I don't get the foods that I'm used to eating – like I'm not fully there."

Next year, Zauner will undertake a follow-up to sci-fi-inspired sophomore album Soft Sounds From Another Planet, and work on a food memoir that builds on her New Yorker piece. Having detailed grief in 2016 debut Psychopomp, she hopes recent forays into nonfiction can free up space for fresh musical motifs.

"My last two records are so sad," the bandleader offers. "I would like to make a jubilant album. I want to figure out new topics to tackle and fall in love with music again."

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